H.R. 5638, Solar Fuel Cells Innovation Act

H.R. 5638

Solar Fuel Cells Innovation Act

July 11, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Monday, July 11, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5638, the Solar Fuels Innovation Act, as amended, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5638 was introduced on July 6, 2016 by Rep. Stephen Knight (R-CA) and was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which ordered the bill to be reported, as amended, by voice vote on July 7, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5638 authorizes the Secretary of Energy to undertake a $100 million basic research initiative in chemistry and material sciences for the purpose of eventually developing solar fuel systems. It further directs the Secretary to leverage existing resources within the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and provides guidance regarding how to execute the basic research initiative.


The Office of Science within the DOE partners with national labs and universities across the country to help conduct research in the physical sciences. A field of particular interest to the DOE and policymakers alike is artificial photosynthesis – the act of transforming solar energy into a range of chemical fuels.

Research conducted in the area of artificial photosynthesis relies heavily upon the advanced study of chemistry and materials science. Accordingly, investments made in these areas at the federal and university level yield valuable scientific findings that could enable the private sector to develop innovative artificial photosynthesis technologies and applications. According to the bill sponsor, “Through this initiative, the transformative discoveries in energy science achieved at our universities and national labs will give the private sector the tools they need to develop the next breakthrough in solar energy technology.”[1]

In an attempt to prioritize research and development in this field, H.R. 5638 would authorize the Secretary to carry out a basic research initiative in advanced chemistry aimed at developing solar fuel cells. It would further provide focused direction and accountability within EERE to prioritize early stage research that is difficult to undertake in the private sector, thereby allowing companies to utilize research conducted at national labs and universities to pioneer new applications and technology.

[1] See https://science.house.gov/news/press-releases/committee-approves-energy-innovation-bills-nist-campus-security-bill


A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is not available at this time.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jason Grassie with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-5539.